A photographers desk with camera on it and the words: Learn from our mistakes, 25 photographers share their mistakes from the last year

27 Photographers Share Their Mistakes and Solutions

It's natural to make mistakes when you're doing a million things at one time:  photography business owner, photographer, parent, partner, friend, etc. But everyone makes mistakes and the important thing is what we learn from them, right? So I wanted to share some of the mistakes I made this year and the lessons I learned, as well as mistakes that other photographers made. I hope that by sharing these, it can help you avoid making the same mistakes or give you solutions and ideas on how to improve your own photography business. 

This blog is part of a collaborative blog series! Check out my other blog where I asked a bunch of photographers to send photos of lens flares with different lenses so you can compare what each lens does with flare!

My Biggest Photography Mistake of 2022

Let's start off with my own biggest mistake from the past year and what I learned from it: allowing myself to be distracted by my phone. This is the hardest for me! Trying to work but ending up on social media instead, and all of a sudden half the day is over and I’ve literally done nothing. I decided I needed to focus and not let my phone distract me, so I’ve started putting my phone on Do Not Disturb while I’m working on my business. This way, important calls from people on my favorites list can still come through but I’m not getting distracted by constant social media alerts. I’ve also made sure to turn off all notifications on my laptop to help me focus. 

Mistakes From Other Photographers and What They Learned

I asked a bunch of photographers what mistakes they made and learned from last year and the response was amazing! I hope you learn a ton from these so that your photography business can run smoother.

Photo location mistakes

One mistake I made this year was planning a session on a Saturday evening in the summer at a busy park downtown Toronto.

My clients weren’t able to find a parking spot. I found one but it was a bit far from the site and I walked. My clients had small kids so they didn’t want to walk a lot.

I felt really bad for not checking before and doing more research as it turned out one side of the park was closed, therefore one parking lot was closed too so there was limited parking.

The session never happened and the client was very frustrated. I had to return the session fee. 

Anyways, lesson learned, check the site before and make sure there’s enough parking and no construction is going on. 😆

Stephanie Michel - Toronto Family Photographer

So I think my biggest mistake of 2022… One instance comes to mind but I’m sure I’ve done it more often. Not confirming that the location you’ve chosen for your session is open/available to be shot as normal. I showed up at the USS Constitution in Charlestown only to be found that it was fenced off due to a wedding. We could still get some shots in with the boat in the background and the city as the backdrop, however, I had to send them out to be masterfully edited because I just couldn’t make the fence disappear. It was slightly embarrassing to the clients too because who wants a giant fence and some rope in the background of their family photos?! 

 Sara Maida - Boston Family Photographer

I used to discourage families from doing outdoor photos in the winter here in Ellensburg.  It is so cold and usually snowy and can be pretty miserable being outside, especially if it is windy.  Families would have to bundle up pretty well and I was afraid that most wouldn't have the ideal clothing for being outside, while looking great in photos. Occasionally, people would ask if I would do outdoor photos in the crazy winter and usually I'd say yes, but I always discouraged it.  Then I decided to cut out the idea of doing photos outdoors during the winter all together, until recently, when I did a couple sessions where we started the session indoors, and took the last part of the session outdoors. I loved it!  I realized that I can still definlety do outdoor photos in the winter here in the frigid Ellensburg, WA, but I needed to split the time with indoor photos first.  This is a game changer for me. The snow is so beautiful and I would love my families to get these snowy photos, but I also want them to experience indoor family photos, so it is a wonderful discovery and reminds me that if I don't like how something is going in my business it doesn't mean I have to cut it out.  It might just mean I need to tweak it and adjust it to my liking and what works best for my families I work with."

Brindy Ruby - Ellensburg, WA Family and Newborn Photographer

A mistake I will have seared into my memory forever is not scouting a location after a summer dry spell. I took a family to a location I love and use frequently, but I hadn’t been there in a couple of weeks. My client had two young, rambunctious boys so I thought this would be the perfect place for them to run around and explore! Boy was I wrong. We showed up and there were cacti absolutely everywhere. They both got stuck with cactus needles and cried, because- ouch! Actually, I wore open toed shoes and got stuck myself! The mom was super understanding about it but I just felt so awful for those two kiddos. I was mortified and I definitely learned my lesson. Do not skimp on the location scouting! Conditions can change quickly!

Savannah Conley - Telluride, Colorado Family Photographer

Social media mistakes and what to do instead

My mistake this year was using my social media as more of a personal journal as opposed to letting it focus on my business.  It took working with a new business coach and realizing what I really wanted my social media to do for ME to realize that I can create a personal social media account to word vomit when I need to. To help my brand be more consistent and take less out of me emotionally, I'll need to make some boundaries on how much and what I share on social media.  So far (about 4 months) it's been working out well and I've been learning a lot and finding other ways to share my life on social media without it feeling like I HAVE to be overly vulnerable.  Now I can choose instead of feeling obligated in some way.

Rivkah Leah - Phoenix Lifestyle Family Photographer

The mistake I make is going onto Facebook to post instead of just going to Meta because that always makes for a distraction. I'm sure there are a lot of other things, but I've been making a lot of improvements this year and focusing where I need to.

Jessica May - Family Photography and Films in Sault Ste. Marie, MI

My mistakes…hmmm so many and so great that I now know them. That means growth right?

Too much time on social media/distractions. However, my biggest one is realizing I can get more done in 2-4 hours than sitting at my computer stressing about getting booked and feeling mom guilt for not being with my family. I’ve now set better hours and stick to them (for the most part) and I’m letting god guide me.

Jaime Bugbee - Vancouver, Washington Photographer for Families

My college roommate, who I hadn’t seen for 18 years reached out to do a family photography session with me while they were in town for an Oregon State Uninversity football game. I usually shoot photo and video outdoors at golden hour, but the game had an evening start time, so we decided to take the photos during the morning. 

She was excited because they hadn’t had professional photos taken since their 14 year old was a baby. No pressure right? But I was excited to reconnect with her and get to meet her kids.

We arrived at the location, Fitton Green County Natural Area, which in my opinion is the best place to take photos at golden hour in Corvallis, OR. There is a gorgeous mountain view, lots of pretty tall grass, and a big oak tree perfect for busy kids to climb. 

I made a rookie mistake of assuming because Fitton Green County Natural Area is gorgeous at golden hour, it would also be during the morning light. The biggest problem was the high dynamic range to deal with the bright morning sun and heavy shadows. I put the family in the shade, but the background was too bright. This made it hard to expose properly. I took some photos of the family in direct sunlight because they wanted the mountain vista background, which meant some harsh shadows on their faces. All these less than ideal light situations could have been avoided if I had location scouted at the time of day I planned to shoot. I was able to make the photos work with masking in LR. But it took substantially more time than photos taken with good lighting in camera. 

Next time I will be sure to location scout at the time of day I plan to take the photos. Lesson learned, knowing where and when the sun will be is important!

Sarah McClary - Corvallis, OR Family Videographer

Client communication mistakes and solutions

My biggest mistake of 2022 was allowing clients to dictate too many details of the session outside my boundaries - particularly in terms of timing and location. As a newcomer to the area, I sometimes agreed to take on projects that I knew I wouldn't post, but I found that the sessions where I didn't stick with my boundaries were especially problematic. Not only did I make more mistakes in these sessions, but I also didn't enjoy editing the photos or feel confident in what I delivered. They were timing and confidence suckers.

Charis Elisabeth - OKC / Norman Family and Newborn Photographer

One mistake I made this year was not focusing 100% on my client experience before I went full-time. I caught myself working way too hard and dropping the ball with clients because I was way more overloaded than I thought I would be. This slow season is all about revamping my client experience to make them really see the value I provide! 

Casandrah Jensen - Zion National Park Off-Road Elopement Photographer

In 2022 I did have some good structure for my communication with clients, but in a lot of ways I dropped the ball, and now in 2023 I'm taking steps to improve that area of my business. I was already good about things like keeping inquiry/booking conversations all in one place and replying to emails within a certain time frame, but I didn't implement a schedule for checking in with clients leading up to the session to help them prepare. I would just check in whenever I happened to think I should do so, but by the time that happened there often wasn't enough time for them to, for example, purchase their favorite outfits online and have them arrive in time.

From now on my plan is to schedule out each check-in for 4 weeks before a session, each following week leading up to it, and the day before to make sure I'm giving each client the best chance to come to their session well prepared.

Another thing I've realized is that I verbally tell my clients when to expect their galleries, but if I tell them in writing what date to expect the photos by, that's going to help them with their anticipation and also help me make sure to deliver galleries earlier than expected as often as I can. 

I'm also going to always make sure I have each client's name and number saved in my phone and repeat the session details (time, date, location, etc.) at every check in, because though I hate to admit it, I did have one instance of thinking I was talking to one client when I was actually talking to another, and one instance of writing the wrong photo session time in my calendar.

Michaela Drew Lindley - Vancouver, Washington Family Photographer

Photography Mistakes about spending

2022 was the year I launched my business. So, I can come up with a long list of mistakes. But the one that stands out the most to me is the financial investments I made on a number things before being truly ready for any of them. Things that I thought would make a big difference.

For instance, I rented an Airbnb as a studio for the weekend to give it a go to lifestyle studio photography as I love minimalist setups. Although I got lovely images from it (and a feature in a high-end blog), I could had simply continued using parks and clients' homes instead. As there is more than enough demand for these type of sessions. 

Another example is that I spent quite a lot on a CRM subscription. Yes, it makes my business and the client communication look more professional and high-end. But it is not something I really need at this point when I still don't have a solid client base or enough leads to justify the extra monthly cost

None of these investments really made any difference in acquiring new clients or bringing extra profit. So, my takeaway is to be more frugal moving forward. There are so many ways and services available to keep costs low.  My goal is to keep things ultra simple and make use of all the resources I already have until the business takes off the ground.

Mariana De Albuquerque - Toulouse, France Photographer

Mistakes having to do with confidence and internal struggles

Being myself. I’m sad to admit it but I’m fearful people won’t like me and I’m really letting that go. With so many other anxious thoughts. I have been practicing manifestation and meditation. It’s been really amazing so far. Just like my mentor talked about but it’s just now hitting me. 

Jaime Bugbee - Vancouver, Washington Family Photographer

My biggest mistake was allowing myself to get into a scarcity mindset in fall and spiral out my worry that I wasn't meeting my goals for sessions booked. By doing so I feel like I blocked the flow of clients that could have booked me. Now I’m going into 2023 open and ready to only take on what I can handle and not letting myself operate out of freak out mode.

Brooke Holliday - Family & Newborn Photographer near Tacoma, WA

Mistakes about image delivery

A mistake I made in 2022 was the same one I've always dealt with: over-shooting, over-culling, over-delivering. I spend so much time editing and because I have such a hard time narrowing down a lot of beautiful images, but the end result is that I'm not being paid nearly enough for the time put in. I HAVE to get better at delivering smaller, more curated galleries instead of 100+ image galleries.  

Cassey Golden - San Antonio Family & Lifestyle Photographer

I’ve made a lot of mistakes but a big one is not sticking to my package sizes. I end up just giving them the whole gallery because I don’t want them to choose, or I feel I could have done better so yet again just give them to them. 

Elya Myers - Kettering, Ohio Family Photographer

I made a lot! 🤣 My biggest mistake was not thinking of my goals as a yearly thing because then the end of the year came and I didn't have the time to achieve them. Now I set goals for every week that way I know I'm working on things constantly.

Evelynne Gomes-Greenberg - Portland Family Photographer

Photography mistakes and solutions: Technical difficulties

Showed up to a summer morning session (Florida weather….hot hot and humid). Forgot to climate control my camera before leaving. The poor client and 1 year old waited for my camera to de-fog for over 30 minutes. We had to do another session because of course the 1 year old was melting down.

The lesson I learned is during the months of April-October in North Florida, to always place my camera outside at least 30 minutes before the session. A practice for me was to place it outside at my home before I left. If this happens again, I'll give the client the option to reschedule or wait. My families' time is so important to me, it's the reason I work so hard on my workflow before my photo sessions.

Marlo Moody- Tallahassee, Florida Family Photographer

I hate when I make mistakes, but it happens to the best of us.

I do IPS with my clients to present the edited images. 

As a payment option I use square. Unfortunately when my client was ready to pay, the square reader needed to update the software. It took 15 minutes and I was so embarrassed because she was here already 1 hour. I still hope that she comes back this year! I didn’t think of trying the system before she had arrived

Nina Ferentinos - Atlanta Family & Branding Photographer

I had my lowest professional low in November of last year. The day started out great, I had a Mastermind level 2 exploratory call with Elena S Blair and decided to go for it! I had a wonderful newborn session later that morning that went great too! Then suddenly in the afternoon I realized I’d made a huge rookie mistake! I updated the OS on my MacBook Pro earlier in the week and now my EOS Utility software wasn’t working. I couldn’t upload any of my full cards. By the time I figured out I couldn’t make it work, I had 30 minutes until my evening family session. I panicked and went to Target to buy more cards. Well of course Target didn’t have the right cards for my R5 AND I had been rough with my camera camera bag in Target, and my camera was giving me an error message! Now I was really panicked and called the client to reschedule (5 minutes before our start time). She didn’t pick up her phone after trying multiple times, so I text her and then drove to the session location to cancel in person. I found the family walking towards their car looking disappointed and when I started to apologize for my camera issue I start crying. It was such an embarrassing situation and I felt totally unprofessional for crying. The family was understanding but overwhelmed by my emotional state. 

Afterwards I realized I should have stayed calm, formatted one of the CF cards and kept my SD cards with the other sessions, and been more careful with my camera. The family has since asked for a reschedule date which is great news, I thought for sure they’d take me up on my offer for a full refund. I know it could have been worse, but I’m disappointed about how I freaked out and let things spin out of control. And of course I NEVER should have updated my Mac OS system in November right in the middle of busy season without fully backing everything up and preparing for issues. Lesson learned. 

Tristin Tracy - Santa Barbara Family Photographer

Mistakes and solutions with booking photography sessions

I made the mistake of trying to offer open-ended mini sessions - no set date or location, just “we can figure out something that works for you!” Turns out no one wants to have to think about it, that’s the point of mini sessions - zero bookings. 🙂  Thankfully I figured it out and had successful mini sessions later in the year. 

Laurel Coughlin - Portland Family & Newborn Photographer

This was my first year as a full-time photographer and I was maybe a little overzealous with booking. I didn’t want to turn down a single client and I ended up seriously overbooking myself. I shot 7 days a week for several months. This pushed back editing time, quality of service, and just about burnt me out completely. I forgot client gifts, dropped the ball on communication several times, and just didn’t perform the way I wanted to. This year I’ll be raising prices and booking only 3 days a week so each client can have 100% of my time & effort!

Savannah Conley - Telluride, Colorado Family Photographer

My biggest mistake: Not sending a model release before doing a free session when I first began shooting for my business. I learnt that even "friends" won't sign it after the session and will not allow you to use their photos for your portfolio or social media. I've now learnt to be CLEAR in the beginning of any conversation with anyone for a free portfolio session and state that the session cannot be done without the model release being signed first and they must be happy to have images on social media and on my website.

Maree Sabri - Melbourne Family Lifestyle Photographer

The biggest mistake I've made was not sending out a contract and asking for an advance payment to a formal client. I was so trusting that I thought everything would be fine. The shoot was very last minute, but it was a big company. 

I've worked with the owner before and underestimated everything. Leading to disappointment and a disturbed customer relationship. Not paying for over a month and demanding the pictures without paying. 

I'll never make that mistake again, even if I know my clients already. This is not happening again! 

Nicole den Harder - Holland Personal Brand and Business Photographer

I have made the mistake of giving the opportunity for clients to reschedule not just once but twice due to weather. And you know what? It ended up being sunny and a beautiful evening. The weather is so unpredictable in the PNW and what’s wrong with a little sprinkle in the middle of your session. Makes for some epic clouds after. So this year if it’s due to weather concerns, no reschedules unless it’s a down pour. Even then there’s options to shoot else where like a garden center or even in home

Claudia Wiedenmann - Family Photographer in Vancouver, WA

Common photography mistake and solution: Not asking for reviews quickly

For me, one of my mistakes was not collecting enough reviews from clients right after the session. Thankfully I had a lot of happy clients, but didn't ask for a Google review, which can be helpful for SEO! I know I can still circle back with them, but their experience with me isn't as fresh in their mind anymore

Briana Calderon - Lifestyle Family Photography in the Greater Seattle-Tacoma area

The end!

I hope you've learned some things by reading about everyone's mistakes! Comment below if you'd like to add your own mistake to the list, or if you would like to share what your biggest takeaway was from this post!

More blog posts for photographers:

Best Canon Cameras for Family Photographers

Awesome Trick to Generate Business Ideas

How to Use Shade

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